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Toxins 2016, 8(9), 263; doi:10.3390/toxins8090263

A Tricky Trait: Applying the Fruits of the “Function Debate” in the Philosophy of Biology to the “Venom Debate” in the Science of Toxinology

Venom Evolution Lab, School of Bioloigical Sciences, University of Queensland, St Lucia QLD, 4072 Brisbane, Australia
Institute for Molecular Bioscience, University of Queensland, St Lucia QLD, 4072 Brisbane, Australia
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editor: Ronald A. Jenner
Received: 30 June 2016 / Revised: 30 August 2016 / Accepted: 30 August 2016 / Published: 7 September 2016
(This article belongs to the Collection Evolution of Venom Systems)
View Full-Text   |   Download PDF [1044 KB, uploaded 7 September 2016]   |  


The “function debate” in the philosophy of biology and the “venom debate” in the science of toxinology are conceptually related. Venom systems are complex multifunctional traits that have evolved independently numerous times throughout the animal kingdom. No single concept of function, amongst those popularly defended, appears adequate to describe these systems in all their evolutionary contexts and extant variations. As such, a pluralistic view of function, previously defended by some philosophers of biology, is most appropriate. Venom systems, like many other functional traits, exist in nature as points on a continuum and the boundaries between “venomous” and “non-venomous” species may not always be clearly defined. This paper includes a brief overview of the concept of function, followed by in-depth discussion of its application to venom systems. A sound understanding of function may aid in moving the venom debate forward. Similarly, consideration of a complex functional trait such as venom may be of interest to philosophers of biology. View Full-Text
Keywords: function; venom; evolution; debate; philosophy; science function; venom; evolution; debate; philosophy; science

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This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. (CC BY 4.0).

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Jackson, T.N.W.; Fry, B.G. A Tricky Trait: Applying the Fruits of the “Function Debate” in the Philosophy of Biology to the “Venom Debate” in the Science of Toxinology. Toxins 2016, 8, 263.

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